Saturday, Jul 31, 2021 08:00 [IST]

Last Update: Saturday, Jul 31, 2021 02:29 [IST]

The virus on the move

The current pandemic and Covid’s infectivity patterns have made it amply clear that human mobility plays a significant role in its spread and this necessitates special attention devoted to all lengths and modes of travel.
During the last 20 years, the infectious diseases and epidemics that India has suffered have originated mostly from beyond the country’s borders. The coronavirus outbreak in India also has an external source. This disease is very contagious and more than 200 countries currently have cases of Covid, the spread of which needs to be contained on an urgent basis by means of better management. One of the main factors that need attention is the travel of people from one city to another, whether their destinations are international or domestic, and people’s daily commute for work. For a clearer understanding of the association between travel and Covid, various travel components need to be analysed.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, countries have sought to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission by restricting population movement through social distancing interventions, thus reducing the number of contacts.
In the first wave of Covid, particularly in the pandemic’s early phase, research found Covid cases were reported mostly from states with metropolitan cities and international airports. India’s air connectivity with global destinations is high, with as many as 30 airports catering to international flights.
In a research to find out the relationship between transmission and mobility for 52 countries around the world, it was found that the transmission significantly decreased with the initial reduction in mobility in 73% of the countries analysed, but evidence of decoupling of transmission and mobility following the relaxation of strict control measures for 80% of countries. In countries with a clear relationship between mobility and transmission both before and after strict control measures were relaxed, mobility was associated with lower transmission rates after control measures were relaxed indicating that the beneficial effects of ongoing social distancing behaviours were substantial.
Understanding how well mobility data reflects population contact rates and whether that relationship is changing in countries that are transitioning, exiting or re-entering lockdown measures is important for tracking the trajectory of national epidemics and assessing the effectiveness of ongoing control measures.
The health ministry has been issuing travel advisories for passengers since February 2020, but not much effort has gone into the preparation of guidelines for airlines and airport staff, railways employees and other support staff. The same goes for local taxis within the states.
Routine office commutes account for a significant share of urban mobility. Not everyone can work from home. Most people who work in offices need to travel daily, and given the long distances that must be covered in most large cities from homes to the workplace, public transport systems are a common preference. When people travel for over 5km on congested buses and trains, they are typically exposed to the same air for more than 30 minutes, which sharply raises the chance of coronavirus transmission.
As human mobility within and beyond urban agglomerations plays a significant role in virus dispersal, the need for travel precautions assumes very high importance as the country tries to achieve normalcy. The states need to ensure that all commuters adhere to Covid-safety protocols.
It is ultimately the task of policymakers and programme implementers to control the spread of Covid and put an end to a pandemic that has caused so much misery. To break the chain of infections, they need to think innovatively and focus on high-risk activity, such as travel. The country can’t be expected to endure frequent lockdowns and other restrictions for years on end.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi